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As their interest in exotic dishes and ethnic fare continues to grow, American consumers are seeking out the spices and seasonings they need to prepare such dishes at home. That’s good news for the spice and seasoning category.
In fact, a January 2016 report from London-based Technavio forecasts that the U.S. spices and seasonings market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of almost 7 percent between 2016 and 2020. Also wielding an influence, according to the market research firm, are ethnic groups living in the United States who yearn for homeland-specific flavors.
To ensure their private brand spices and seasonings get their fair share of that projected growth, retailers will need to do more than invest in product development that meshes with current and emerging trends. They will also need to devise and act on a merchandising strategy that aims to attract the attention of shoppers.
To see what retailers are doing well, we visited three Chicago-area stores: The Fresh Market store in Lincolnshire, Ill., operated by The Fresh Market Inc., Greensboro, N.C.; a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market store in Deerfield, Ill., operated by Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Downers Grove, Ill.; and a Whole Foods Market store in Deerfield, Ill., operated by Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market. Our visits took place in November.
The Fresh Market
Foot traffic in The Fresh Market store was light during our mid-morning visit. The store’s spices and seasonings are located on one side of an aisle situated in the left-hand side of the store. We found a wide selection of spices, spice/seasoning grinders and jarred seasoning blends under the TFM (The Fresh Market), TFM Pantry Collection and TFM Culinary Collection brands. A nice-looking wood frame separates the main spice and seasoning items — most of them under the retailer’s own brands — from the various brands of seasonings on the lower shelves.
- ■ With dozens of SKUs, The Fresh Market’s own brands have the largest presence within the spice and seasoning offerings, and they are merchandised in a brand-blocking fashion.
- ■ The store dedicates an entire end cap to bulk bagged TFM spices and seasonings.
- ■ A display rack situated on top of the meat case showcased a number of own-brand seasoning blends, including TFM Culinary Collection Maple Bacon Spice Rub/Marinade, TFM Pantry Collection Signature Spice Rub/Marinade, TFM Pantry Collection Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt Grinder and others.
- ■ To the right of the seasoning display, the store placed jars of TFM Gourmet Turkey Brine seasoning, accompanied by a large sign that communicated the price of $6.99.
- ■ In the seasoning display rack on top of the meat case, the TFM Steak and Chop Grinder product was out of stock.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market
The Fresh Thyme Farmers Market store was moderately busy during our mid-morning visit. The spices and seasonings are located in an aisle on the left-hand side of the store, perpendicular to cashier stands in the front of the store. Most of the spices and seasonings are located in a wood-framed area; own-brand offerings are available under the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market Organic brands. Extracts such as vanilla and basics such as pepper are located on the bottom shelf of the wood-framed unit and include some Fresh Thyme Farmers Market offerings.
- ■ Most of the retailer’s store brand spices and seasonings are brand blocked: One row is at eye level (organic, about a dozen SKUS), while the other is a couple shelves below it (non-organic, about a dozen SKUS).
- ■ The distinctive, colorful design for the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market spices and seasonings makes them hard to miss.
- ■ A large standing sign on the walkway outside of the store communicated a “50 percent off” sale on Frontier herbs, spices and extracts, while large shelf signage called out the sale prices on the shelf. No signage communicated the value proposition of the own-brand offerings.
- ■ An end cap dedicated to bulk spices features the Frontier brand, not the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market brand.
- ■ Other than a branded black pepper display (Supreme Spice), we noticed no spices or seasonings being displayed within the fresh meat department.
Whole Foods Market
Foot traffic was heavy during our late-morning visit to the Whole Foods Market store. The spices and seasonings are located in an aisle toward the right-hand side of the store. The section boasts two wood-framed areas on opposite sides of the aisle. One area is dedicated to bulk unbranded spices and large containers of commonly used spices such as garlic and oregano under the 365 Everyday Value brand. The other area holds a wide variety of jarred spices and seasonings, including those under Whole Foods Market’s own brands.
- ■ Whole Foods’ offerings are blocked by brand: the 365 Everyday Value brand starts at about eye level, while the Whole Foods Market Organic and 365 Everyday Value Organic brands are located below it. We counted dozens of SKUs; of the three stores we visited, this one had the largest store brand presence in the spice and seasoning category.
- ■ An end-cap display promising “Holiday Essentials” housed baking essentials under Whole Foods Market’s own brands. In the middle of the display were baking spices under the 365 Everyday Value Organic brand: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Vanilla Extract, Ginger and Cinnamon.
- ■ We noticed only one spice/seasoning display by the meat and seafood departments: a threetiered cart featuring several varieties of Borsari seasoning blends.
Cater to the occasion
To attract attention to store brand spices and seasonings, retailers will want to make the items front and center within their holiday and seasonal merchandising sets.
Steve Thomas, senior vice president corporate brands for Gel Spice Co. in McKinney, Texas, suggests that retailers make use of display shippers during these peak consumption periods. For example, they could showcase own-brand salt and pepper shaker shippers as well as seasoning salt and steak/barbecue spice shippers during spring and summer for cookouts.
Retailers will also want to think outside of center store, placing private brand spice and seasoning displays in the meat, poultry and seafood departments. And if they offer refrigerated and/or frozen spices under their own brands, retailers could benefit from well-thought-out cross-merchandising efforts within the refrigerated and frozen sections of the store.
Packaging tweaks also can help on the merchandising front.
“We feel that attractive vignettes of each specific spice item add an attractive feature to all spices and help each own brand stand out on the shelf,” Thomas says.